Self Image

“You are the only you God made… God made you and broke the mold.”
― Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot

Is this the right answer? I don’t want to sound stupid…

How will people perceive me based on my clothes, weight, height, hair color, etc. etc. etc. 

Does this tweet make me sound too quirky/serious/nerdy/ditzy? 

Oh great! I missed that shot! Now I look horribly un-athletic/un-cordinated!

At some point, all of us have dealt with these attacks. Attacks on our self image, and how we perceive ourselves. It can come in the a variety of forms, as shown above, ranging from appearance, to academics, to athletics.

Personally, I’ve always struggled with the tendency to define myself by my academic ability and competency. As a child, I literally used to feel a sense of defeat over B’s on tests, because in my mind, it should have been an A. And, If I don’t know how do something, I often get discouraged and refuse to ask for help. One of my most frequent phrases during my childhood years was “I’ll do it myself.”

I’ve improved in these areas, but at times, I still find myself reverting back to these patterns of thinking. Maybe you have a different aspect of self image that you struggle with. Perhaps yours is with the mirror, a hobby, or how others perceive you. It’s different for everyone, but it all has the same root.

Every time we see ourselves as less than God’s wonderful creation and child, we’ve believed a lie. Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. Emily from fearfullywonderfullyme.com once said in her post The Most Beautiful Girl, that if we don’t love ourselves, we cannot love God or others to our fullest potential. We are made in God’s image and we are His masterpiece. Matthew 22:39 even says that we are called to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

To paraphrase Pastor Dave from God’s Not Dead, if God is incapable of making mistakes, than can each one of us be a mistake? Of course not! We are all here for a purpose and when God made us, He broke the mold! As hard as it can be when society tells us that we’re supposed to live up to a certain standard, we need to remember we were never meant to be like everyone else. We were meant to be us. 

All of our quirks and appearance “flaws” are part of the the beauty of God’s creation. Just as a flower glorifies God by being a flower, and not a tree, we glorify God by being ourselves, and not someone else. Imagine how boring it would be if everyone looked the same and had the same talents. We were made to be different. God gives us different gifts so that we can glorify God through our own unique talents.

Next time you feel discouraged or struggle with self image, remember this.

Different is beautiful. 

And, in the words of Jonny Diaz, there could never be a more beautiful you. 🙂

 

A Letter To My Freshman Self

Dear Freshman Courtney,

First of all, congratulations on making it this far! You’ve survived Jr. High! Now…on to high school! You’re going to face some of your greatest and worst moments during this period of your life, so strap your seatbelt and prepare for the ride!

I know how alone you’re going to feel in that art class, but hang in there! You’ll make it through! It can hard to feel that you’re on the outside of things, but it will be that very feeling that will help mold you into the strong, confident person that you’re going to become! It will also help you gain greater compassion for others who have been there.

I also know that you’re struggling in your faith right now. You’re getting older and beginning to wonder how it fits in your current stage of life (Believe me, it does!). You have a lot of questions and are going to spend a great trying to figure out answers to every ideological/political/religious issue under the sun (Because that’s just how your brain works). You’ll find answers to some of those questions. Others, you’re still trying to figure out.

That’s OK! You don’t have to have every single thing figured out about the world around you. But, don’t be afraid to ask questions! That’s how you grow! God can handle the questions; He’s a big God.

And that “grand moment” that you’re longing for will happen, but somewhere along the way you’ll come to find that each and every day you have the opportunity to make a difference. You don’t just have the opportunity to let your light shine and make a difference on stage or speaking in front of a crowd; you have that opportunity each and every day just by living your life. You’ll eventually start your own blog and twitter account, which will give you the opportunity to share you’re thoughts and opinions with the world. Believe me, you’ll get a kick out of that.

I should probably also warn you that the time between Freshman and Junior year is going to spin a little bit out of control. You’ll lose friends, deal with various situations, and struggle to stay strong. But don’t worry! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel (I was there, so you can trust me)! You’ll meet a really nice girl during the summer between 9th and 10th grade. You’ll become good friends and grow closer to some of your current friends. You’ll also become friends with a girl from Texas and communicate via video chat. The age of the technology…

It will take time, but you’ll finally move on from all of the stress that hit you in the face during that time period. You’ll begin taking a theater class, which will quickly become your favorite class. You’ll love the craziness and camaraderie, and become good friends with your classmates. You’ll perform plays, act out skits, and laugh a whole lot!

You’ll also start going to a new church and feel very at home there. It will start out meeting in a movie theater and they’ll play really cool Christian electro-music. You’ll walk in and it will feel unlike any church you’ve ever been to. You’ll learn a lot from your new church, Christian blogs, and a really cool online Christian magazine called RELEVANT.

Finally, you’ll arrive here, writing this letter to yourself. You’ll make great friends, gain wonderful opportunities, and have some really cool classes. Oh sure, you’ll have your off days. But, you’ll grow to become confident and outgoing, beginning to see life as God’s story. And, if you had never experienced each chapter before this one, you may never have arrived where you are today.

Sincerely,

2016-Courtney

 

Waiting And Trusting

Hey everyone! I’m back in the blogging world! Sorry for the long hiatus (apparently my last post was twenty-two days ago…eek!). I’ve been keeping busy with school and revising a book that I’m writing (or, should I say re-writing?).

But, I’m back and I finally came up with a topic to write about (YAY!!!). This post is going to be about…wait for it…wait for it…It’s going to be about waiting! Yeah…I tried to throw in a little joke there.

Lately, as I’m getting older and closer to becoming an adult, I’ve been hyper-focused on my dreams and goals. A couple of years ago, things like a future career seemed so far off. Something to worry about in the distant future. But, suddenly, everything feels super close, which raises a million unanswerable questions to surface. Will my writing career sink or swim? And if it does work out, how? Should I make this change or that change to my book? Are my characters distinct enough? Are they relatable?

And then there are the more universal concerns.

In a couple of years I’m going to be living on my own, will I be able to handle it? I still only have my permit and haven’t even been practicing my driving lately. Will I ever get the hang of it? And, what will college be like? Will I be able to handle college math (My worst subject)?

I find myself caught between now and the future, half wishing I could ride in the crazy scientist from Back To The Future‘s time machine and be assured that everything will fall into place. But, I have something better than a time machine: God’s word.

As Christians, we’re not left alone to worry about the future. God speaks about this topic numerous times throughout Scripture.

““Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?” Matthew 6:25-27

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”” Jeremiah 29:11

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

God has our whole lives planned out, and His plans for us are beyond our wildest dreams! We may not be able to see the future, but God can. Plus, if we could see into the future, we’d miss all of the surprises that come with living! As scary as it can often be, it’s also exciting to know that God has good things planned for us that we can’t yet fathom. At times, we may wish that everything would just happen right now. But, sometimes He sees things we can’t and has us wait for a reason.

Two years ago, I would have loved to perform a song that I wrote right then and there; but God had me wait until it I got better at singing and composing the instrumental for it. As hard as it was at the time, I’m now thankful that He had me wait. I trust that this is true for all my other goals/dreams/aspirations as well. God may be growing us during times of waiting, and asking us to trust Him with what you can’t see. He may be planning opportunities that can only be found further down the path of life. We don’t always know why God asks us to wait, but we can know this-

We never have to wait alone, because God is always with us, and always has our best interest at heart. ❤️

This song, While I’m Waiting, is from the well-known Christian movie, Fireproof. I think the song fits this topic pretty perfectly. 🙂

Uplifting Article

I was amen-ing this all the way through. It’s so refreshing to hear people positively and Biblically talk about what has been such a divisive, hot-button issue.

Stories like his need to be heard in Christian circles.

#Peace #ChurchFamily #BrosAndSistersInChrist #GodLovesAll #BeautifulLifeForAll

http://www.crowncross.org/2015/04/17/finding-love-in-the-church-reflections-of-a-gay-celibate-christian/

Beautiful Article By Wesley Hill

In the wake of increasing discussion following the LGBT topic, I’ve stumbled across a powerful article by Wesley Hill, a prominent Christian speaker on this subject. I found it so good, that I felt compelled to share it with all of you, and I urge you to try to understand and be a friend to those whose struggle looks different than yours. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Hill and others like him, and hope that their philosophies, solutions, and musings, are continued in decades to come.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/07/15/yes-many-christian-communities-are-toxic-for-my-lbgt-friends-but-theres-more/

A Better Way (Part Two)

Jesus payed much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come-Casting Crowns

Good morning fellow bloggers and readers. Sorry I did not get a chance to blog yesterday. I had insomnia the night before, and thus, was pretty exhausted yesterday, with little energy to think in-depth about my current blog two-parter. 

Nonetheless, I’m feeling good today and I’m going to pick up where I left off. In my last blog post, I talked about a way for Christians to have a more compassionate response to the LGBT Community, and information and conclusions that I’ve personally come to find. Thus, today I’m going to be talking about what we, as the church, can do.

1. Accept singleness as a viable option. I think that is one that can apply to both gay and straight people. There have been times when the response to being single in the church seemed to be “What’s wrong with you?” In not so many words. If churches solely focus on marriage and the nuclear family, it can leave a gay celibate person in a very awkward position. If you look through the Bible, singleness is actually commended, not discouraged. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:8. “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” Nevertheless, the single person in the congregation should be looked at in the same way that the married couple with kids is looked at. Valued members of church and society.

2. Be a family.The last thing that I’d ever want to tell a gay person is to be lonely. This was a big reason why I struggled with my response to this topic for a while. Because whether you’re an introvert or an extravert, we all need people. We all need love, acceptance, and community. Someone to vent to after a long day and someone who we can share a pizza with. In the words of Bill Withers (I’m actually listening to a cover of this song right now!) “We all need somebody to lean on.” Nonetheless, I believe that if we, as Christians begin outreaching to this community and acknowledging these genuine needs, gay oriented people can find this love they need in friendships. Wesley Hill even has a book on this concept, called Spiritual Friendship. I believe that there are a lot of steps that we can take to show Jesus’ command to love your neighbor to the LGBT Community. Julie Rodgers recalls an experience once had in the video that I posted to my last blog entry. She said that her friend once told her that if she ever gets to a place in her life where she feels she’s not known, she’s welcome to live at her house and be Aunt Julie to her kids. Now, I recognize that we can’t all have someone live in our house, but I really love the aunt and uncle concept. What if nuclear families in the church did have an honorary aunt or uncle? I feel that this could be a blessing to both single people and nuclear families. The single people would have a place to go for Easter and Christmas, and a family to call their own. Meanwhile, the nuclear family would have someone to help watch the kids when they go out, or when they simply need an extra hand.

3. Don’t be afraid. I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have at least some fear of gay people. However, I believe that once we become more informed, the topic no longer becomes one to be afraid of, but rather a people group that aren’t that different from you and me. I believe that pastors need to be especially careful about what they say from the pulpit. It would do immense good to create an atmosphere where gay people feel welcomed and loved, not outcasted and hated. I’ve read that gay people aren’t just out there somewhere in the world, they can be in your church, silent about their struggle.

4. Never Stand For Gay Bullying. http://www.bullyingstatistics.org says, “According to recent gay bullying statistics, gay and lesbian teens are two to three times as more likely to commit teen suicide than other youths. About 30 percent of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis. Students who also fall into the gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered identity groups report being five times as more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe after being bullied due to their sexual orientation. About 28 percent out of those groups feel forced to drop out of school altogether.” This is devastating. Gay people deserve to be treated like people. They do not deserve hate crimes or hate speech. No one does. If you see a gay person being bullied, stand up for them. Though this one ought to be somewhat obvious, we should never condone people being bullied. For orientation or for other reasons.

5. Don’t push for a universal mold-Though there are likely many gay guys who are athletes or soldiers, and many lesbian girls who are supermodels or fashion designers, some may not fit the stereotypical mold of what a guy is “supposed” to be or what a girl is “supposed” to be. Julie Rodgers wrote in one of her blog posts about being paranoid that someone would find out that she was gay, and how she’d even question if she was sitting gay. Granted, I’m sure there are many straight guys and girls who deviate from gender stereotypes as well. Basically, what I’m getting at, is to not freak out or turn your nose in disgust to someone who isn’t your typical model of “guy” or “girl”. If you look through the Bible, there is not one place that says that a guy can’t take ballet or that a girl can’t play sports. In fact, if you look at 2 Samuel 6:16, you see King David leaping and dancing before God. Furthermore, 1 Samuel 16:7 says “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” (NIV) Furthermore, according to http://www.theguardian.com, in 1890, the Ladies’ Home Journal advised blue for girls, and pink for boys. “In the UK the Women’s Institute was still recommending pink for boys up until 1921.” Thus, I urge you to not make jokes about a guy acting “girly” or a girl acting too guy-ish. It would seem to me, that God looks more at the heart than what a person takes up as a hobby or their mannerisms. If we take the focus off stereotypes, and embrace people’s wonderful and unique personalities, I believe it will take a lot of pressure off of a lot of people and allow us to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.

This is the final post for my A Better Way two-parter, nonetheless, I hope that the information that I have posted within the last two blogs has been interesting and beneficial to you. I believe that we all have the opportunity to create a better way for gay oriented people. Change starts right where you are, as you interact with people everyday. I urge you to show kindness and God’s love to LGBT oriented people and people in general. Who knows, you could make a new friend, and you could impact a life.

I have no idea what the band Tenth Avenue North had in mind when they wrote their recent hit, No Man Is An Island, but this song has always seemed to fit very well with what I just blogged about. Thus, I feel it is fitting to post this song as a final conclusion to my two part series.

A Better Way (Part One)

Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did-Casting Crowns

Today I’m going to be addressing a topic that’s difficult, yet one of the most pressing issues in Christian circles right now. It’s a sensitive topic, so admittedly, I’ve been a little apprehensive about blogging on this subject. Thus, I’m going to ask you to put biases and preconceived notions aside and listen objectively to what I’m going to say.

We live in a generation with a lot of big topics and news articles popping up. Nonetheless, one that seems to be especially reoccurring is the topic of homosexuality. According to williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu, there are approximately nine million adult Americans who identify as LGBT, not including teenagers. While the LGBT crowd is still technically a minority, nine million is a pretty huge amount of people.

Homosexuality is still a fairly new topic in American culture. Though it’s been around since the Biblical days, and though there were likely “closeted” gay oriented people throughout American history, it’s only been openly discussed since roughly the 1980s. Nonetheless, the newness of it in American culture hasn’t stopped people from speaking out very loudly on the topic. The best analogy that I can think of to describe the conversation surrounding this issue would have to be a game of ping pong. Both stances, hurling insults back and forth. Often, the shouting match is so loud that neither side can really hear what the other is saying.

I remember I was about fourteen when I first really started having serious questions about the topic. As many young teenage girls do, I read articles by my favorite singers and actors. By doing so, I was exposed to a pretty good deal of information on homosexuality, as many of them spoke out in support of the LGBT Community. I heard statistics of gay suicide rates and some of the legitimate struggles of gay oriented people. Hearing about how often gay oriented people struggle with depression stirred up a lot of compassion in me. I than thought back to things that I heard on the topic from Christian circles, and felt seriously conflicted. What was my view on the topic?

For a long time, my view simply bounced back and forth, whichever seemed right at the time. To some degree, I tried to avoid the topic as hearing about it only seemed to cause more confusion. One problem with that method. I couldn’t escape hearing about it. The harder I tried to avoid the topic, the more it popped up. I remember hanging out with some of my friends one day, and one friend telling us how her friend recently came out of the closet to her. None of us had any real advice. One friend simply said she disagreed with it and my other friend and I merely sat back and said nothing. Another thing that triggered questions was a character on a long running TV show. Throughout the show, it is speculated that one of the characters is gay. Interesting thing is, it’s never even hinted that the character is with someone of the same gender. So it made me wonder, what about people who are just attracted to people of the same gender? What are the rules when it comes to mere orientation?

Finally, I confessed my questions to my Mom, who told me to go research it. I had thought about that before, but was always a little hesitant, worried that I wouldn’t like the answer that I would find. Reluctantly, I googled Christian view on homosexuality, expecting to see somewhat homophobic answers. To my surprise, I found a very lengthy article on the subject. It said something that really struck a chord with me. It said that just as an alcoholic can stand up in an AA meeting and say that they’re an alcoholic, but through God’s grace, not drinking, so can a gay person stand up in a prayer meeting and say that they have a gay orientation (Same sex attraction), but through God’s grace, they’re living chastely. That one sentence, though relatively simplistic, was packed with a lot of information to me.

One, that having a gay orientation is not a sin, two that churches should allow gay oriented people to be open and honest about that part of themselves. I really liked that stance there. It allowed me to hold to both my understanding of scripture and my compassion for the LGBT Community.

I didn’t have to compromise anything.

That article prompted me to research the topic even further, spending hours reading books and articles on having a compassionate, understanding, Christian approach to homosexuality. I found some articles and videos by awesome, wise, Christian gay and lesbian people such as Julie Rodgers and Wesley Hill who helped me better understand this issue.

I’ve been asked why this is such an important topic to me, being that I’m not gay myself. I suppose that a big reason that this topic is so important to me, is because gay people have often been outcasted for being different. While I can’t relate to being attracted to other girls, there have been times in the past that I’ve felt like an outcast. I’ve been in classes where I didn’t have any friends, forcing me to sit awkwardly by myself. There have been other times that I’ve been the “odd one out” because my taste in movies or television has been different than what’s popular, because I don’t share in the same hobbies as the people that I’m hanging out with, etc. I’m not saying this to have a pity party but rather to explain why this is an important topic to me and how many of us, in that way, can find common ground with gay oriented people.

To sum up this blog post, what if there’s a better way to handle this topic than merely saying “I don’t support gay marriage”. What if, we loved this group of people unconditionally, the way that Jesus loves all of us? What if we took the time to try to understand their struggles and listen to their stories? What if we befriended them, looking deeper than gay and seeing them as one of God’s beautiful creations? I understand that this is a topic that isn’t often addressed and that it can be somewhat complex, so if you have any questions about what I said in this article, I urge you you to post them in the comments section. I’ll do the best that I can to answer them.

This is a very thought insightful and thought provoking video by a woman who is both gay and Christian, Julie Rodgers. Julie has a blog on WordPress as well if you would like to know more about this topic from someone who has lived it first hand.